A Whole Lotta Love: DIY Valentine
You know it and I know it, February 14 is comin’ around the corner and fast. Like most holidays, it highlights a feeling we should be expressing all year round, not only on this one special day. But much like Thanksgiving is the time for thanks and Christmas is the time for giving, Valentine’s Day is the time for love. In my book it doesn’t matter who you are giving/getting the love to/from. It could just as easily be a partner as a friend, child, parent, or sibling. Let’s just all share the love, right?
One of the best places for me to feel the love is in the kitchen, and one of the best ways to do it is through slow, careful meals. I don’t want a quick, crunchy salad, and I don’t want a take-and-bake heart shaped pizza. I want something rich and creamy; they call it comfort food for a reason, you know! It’s because with each bite you can feel the love that went into that dish, and feel more loved after eating. So let’s go over a few great recipes oozing with love, and skip all that heart-shaped shit.
Think of an innocent white onion, raw, crisp, and pungent. Melt a little butter in a pan, turn the heat down low and sweat those onions. Cooking them low and slow, coaxing the sugars out and turning those slices a rich, golden brown, there’s a lot of love that goes into caramelized onions. Perfect paired with goat cheese in a tart. Follow the same method for anything from Brussels sprouts to carrots.
Nothing says I love you like the slow, melty goodness of fondue. I’m talking a nice hunk of cheese, splash of dry white wine, and a little paprika slowly melted together. I’ve got a retro cookbook titled Fondue is In, published in 1970 by Donna Grimes that tells the tale of a “marvelous Swiss custom” involving fondue. The legend states that if a woman should lose her bread in the fondue, she has to kiss the nearest gentleman. If a man loses his, he buys the next round of drinks. It’s poor taste to get caught making anyone else lose their bread, so no cheating! Donna’s recipe for classic Swiss fondue is as follows:
1 split clove of garlic
1 pound Swiss cheese, diced
3 tablespoons flour or 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons kirsch or brandy
dash nutmeg, pepper, or paprika
2 loaves French bread, cut into cubes with crust
Dredge cheese with flour. Rub pot with garlic, add wine and place over moderate heat. Do not boil. When wine is hot, add lemon juice, then add cheese cubes a handful at a time. Stir continually with a wooden spoon until cheese is melted. Bring mixture to a bubble for an instant. Add kirsch/brandy and spices, stirring in a figure eight pattern until blended. Keep hot for dipping.
Alternately, if Swiss isn’t your thing — try this recipe with gruyere and cider. If cheese isn’t your favorite melted treat, chocolate fondue is just as easy to make. Just use the ratio of 1/2 cup cream to every pound of chocolate, melted in a double boiler.
I really believe that braising is a slow form of magic. You take an inexpensive cut of meat, cook it for a few hours and are rewarded with a rich, juicy steam cloud of delicious when you finally lift the lid of your pot. HuffPo put together a list of 10 great braising dishes. They cover chicken, lamb, beef, pork, and fish complete with a variety of sides. Vegetables also benefit from a nice braise; try turnips braised in wine, cumin-braised Swiss chard, braised celery, or braised red lentils.
Confit is a term describing something that has been fully immersed in a substance for both flavor and presentation. One familiar term might be duck confit; a melt in your mouth leg of duck that has been simmered in its own fat, sometimes for hours. Making duck confit is as simple as putting a few duck legs in the oven and forgetting about it for around two hours. Here is a fool-proof recipe. Chicken confit is also delicious, and I can’t forget the all mighty pork belly confit. Surprisingly enough, you can also make fruit confit.
Have a wonderful time channeling your love into the kitchen, on that special day in February, and all year round. My apologies for the sappiness of this column.
You didn’t think I forgot about dessert, did you? Check out this gigantic V Day-themed dessert list.
Don’t forget to consume your yearly pound of chocolates next week, made customizable by Boston’s oldest chocolatier, Phillips Chocolate House.
Last but not least, don’t forget the booze! Here are a few recommended V Day wines, aka “romance in a bottle.”